Authors: Adrienne & Scott Barbeau,Adrienne & Scott Barbeau
Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #Fiction
Pasty-faced little fuck.
Not the most politically correct way to describe someone suffering from albinism. But in this case, probably accurate.
Eva Casale, the special effects woman at Anticipation, had been seen with an albino. Milla Taylor, currently in two parts on the coroner’s table, was also seen in the company of an albino.
And now Ovsanna Moore had come to Palm Springs to visit the same albino.
I have to admit that I was disappointed. I didn’t want Ovsanna to be guilty, but the evidence never lies, as the guy on
says all the time, and then goes on to prove how it does. Someone with a lot more common sense would have waited for backup, but I was still working on the assumption that Ovsanna trusted me enough to talk face-to-face. I needed to ask her why and how and all those other good questions a nosy detective likes to put to a suspect.
I wandered back to the Bobs, careful to keep my excitement under control. “We’re going to need a search warrant for the Eden property and the grounds where the SUV is parked. Don’t look,” I added quickly.
The two Bobs swiveled in their seats to look at the house up the road. Montoya looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. “Do we have just cause?” he asked.
“Witness statement,” I said vaguely. “How fast can you get it?”
“Are you kidding? This is Palm Springs and it’s five o’clock. Every judge in town is either playing tennis or on his second martini. It’s gonna take a while.”
“Well then, here’s what I want you to do. It’s a private road, right? No exit past the house? Get as many units as you can and seal off this end of the road. But tell them to come in with their lights off. It’s dark enough out here and we’re far enough away, they may not be visible from the house. Then get Captain Barton in BHPD. Tell him I believe the occupants of the house are directly involved in the Cinema Slayer crimes and that we’re going to need a SWAT team just to get into the building, Let him take it from there. Now go; get the roadblocks set up.”
“Where are you going?”
I nodded up the road toward the house. “Going to knock on a door.”
“Is that wise?” Montoya asked, peering shortsightedly at the house.
I wanted ten minutes alone with Ovsanna. I needed to look her in the eye and hear what she had to say one more time. I was sure now she’d lied to me about the threatening phone calls, but I still didn’t have a clue what her part was in the multiple murders. All my instincts told me she wasn’t a killer. But my instincts wanted to throw her down on a bed and climb inside her, too, so it seemed pretty obvious my instincts couldn’t be trusted.
And if she was guilty, I wanted to make the arrest myself. In part, because I wanted to protect her—from the treatment she’d get without me around and from the media. And in part, because I’m no fool. I knew how this would look in my file. Maybe Dominick Dunne would write my story for
“The Final Curtain: Capturing the Cinema Slayer.” Give me something else to tape up in my locker and remind myself sometimes that I know what I’m doing.
If Ovsanna weren’t involved, she could have bought the movie rights for Anticipation. Get Viggo Mortensen to play me. Johnny Depp isn’t tall enough.
The wall around the house was fifteen feet high, at least; big double doors were set into the center of the wall, with a smaller arched door to one side. The intercom was set into the wall beside the smaller arched door. I unsnapped the restraining strap and loosened the Glock in its holster. Maral had said Ovsanna had gone inside. With the car where it was, I figured she was still in there, maybe with the albino. And where the fuck was Maral?
I was just about to press the intercom button when I spotted something sparkling on the ground. I knelt and, shielding my pen-light from above, flashed it over the dirt. Grains of glass twinkled back at me. I picked up a handful of glass and dirt and let the dirt sift through my fingers. The glass was safety glass. Some of the pieces had dried blood on them. Still crouching, I turned my head and aimed the light back toward the SUV. From this low angle, I could see a trail of fragments leading from the black SUV driver’s door—right to where I was standing.
I unholstered the Glock and released the safeties. I always keep a round chambered—not necessarily good weapon craft but really good police craft. You don’t want to pull a gun in a gunfight and then have to chamber a round. Besides, even though I didn’t have them on, the Glock 17L has three safeties.
I could now justifiably claim that I was following a witness statement and a trail of evidence leading from the SUV to the house where I believed Maral McKenzie had been taken following her abduction. I pressed the flat of my hand against the steel door and pushed. In any good movie, it would have clicked open. This one didn’t. Short of ringing the bell or using a SWAT team with an explosive charge, I wasn’t going to get in that way. I set off around the side of the house, keeping close to the wall, watching out for cameras or alarms. If there were any, I didn’t see them.
There were no streetlights and no moonlight. I couldn’t see two feet in front of me. I kept my left hand on the stone wall, the Glock in my right, rounded a corner, and stopped, the gun snapping up, breath catching in my throat. I thought I was facing a person, but when my heart stopped hammering I realized it was nothing more than one of the countless palm trees that gave the city its name. This one was listing sharply to the left, its top directly across the wall of the estate. Shoving the gun back in its holster, I did my best to mount the tree and half climbed, half dragged myself up the trunk. Two humongous rats darted out at me from their nest in the palm fronds. I knocked one of them off the trunk and watched him land on the top of the wall. There was a loud buzzing, a small arc of light, and the damn rat’s fur burst into flames. So…electric wires embedded in the top of the wall. Whoever owned this house took their security very seriously indeed. Well, better the rat than me.
I climbed farther up the trunk to a point where I was leaning over the wall. There was water directly below me, not a swimming pool, a moat, for God’s sake. A moat surrounding the entire house with a bridge leading from the short steel door to the house itself. It was too dark to make out anything in the water, but it sounded like there were huge fish swimming down there. I could hear their tails breaking water. There was thick vegetation on the other side of the moat, all the way up to the house. From the shadows they threw on the wall, I’d say cactus and agave, nothing you’d want to get too close to. From what I could see of the house, I was looking at several million dollars’ worth of amazing architecture in stone, glass, and steel, a real fortress.
Most of the house was in darkness, but there was dim light in one huge room on the middle floor, probably the living room. From this angle, almost directly across from the room and with no sun to activate the privacy glass, I could see inside.
Ovsanna was there.
I could only see her profile. She was talking to a tall man in a tuxedo and a short girl in some punk-looking fancy gown. There was no furniture in the room, and I could barely make out other shapes standing in the darkness against the far wall. Human shapes. I pushed myself as far up the tree as I could, ignoring its ominous creaking, keeping an eye out for more rats and my feet away from the buzzing wires. Running a lethal dose of electricity through the wires was illegal, but there was probably enough to fry my nervous system and blow me off the tree. I doubted anyone inside would care if I broke my neck in the process.
Ovsanna moved and the guy in the tux turned just enough for me to see his face—white blond hair and pale skin. The albino. The short girl reminded me of someone. Then she turned toward me and I realized she wasn’t a girl at all; she was an old woman dressed like a teenage Goth…looking astonishingly like Bette Davis in
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
I couldn’t tell what was going on. Ovsanna looked angry. Was she giving them orders? Yelling at them? She walked toward a floor-to-ceiling marble fireplace, turned her back to it, and stood there with her arms crossed over her chest.
There was no sign of Maral.
More people were crowding into the room but no one was speaking. They just seemed to be standing in silent rows watching Ovsanna and the older woman. There were flame-haired women to the fore, but I couldn’t make out the details of any of the people standing in the background. They all seemed to be wrapped in black cloaks.
Maybe it was time to get that eye test I’d been putting off.
What the hell was going on here? And who were all these people? There were certainly enough for a party, but there was no party atmosphere: no waiters circulating with food, no streamers or balloons. No lights.
Maybe it was a cult. Some sort of devil-worshipping coven. Now that would make great press! This was California, home of the Church of Satan and the Temple of Set, as well as a host of smaller covens. A devil-worshipping cult would just be the icing on the publicity cake: I could see the
headline: “Ovsanna Moore, High Priestess of Horror.”
Then I had a sudden horrible thought: what if it was a horror movie convention? SuzieQ had dragged me along to a convention in San Diego once. I had a good time looking at the women in costume—SuzieQ had gone dressed as Vampirella. She’d made a fortune selling eight-by-ten glossies and posing for photos and I’d spent a busy afternoon keeping fans in order. Some of the fans had been terrifying in their intensity. Looking into the room below, I thought I saw some of that same behavior. The remnants of my mother’s exceptional steak pizzaiolla soured in my stomach. Had I just closed off a road and called in Chief Barton for a horror convention? I felt a bead of cold sweat gather in my hairline, run down my forehead, and gather on the tip of my nose. I could almost feel my pension disappearing.
Ovsanna said something and the old woman threw her head back and laughed. Then she moved closer to Ovsanna and struck her across the face. Ovsanna grabbed her by the hair, her lips curled back and she looked like she was going for the old lady’s throat with her teeth. Now the other people in the room were moving—fast.
A woman with flaming red hair stepped right in front of her. I didn’t even see Ovsanna’s hands move, but the woman lifted right off the ground in an explosion of bright red blood and crashed into the others standing behind her. I got the briefest glimpse of the body as it hit the ground: there wasn’t a lot left of her head.
Ovsanna fought like a wild woman, kicking, punching, and biting. I guessed she must have had knives in both hands, because every time she struck out at one of the figures I could see her slicing them open. Arterial blood sprayed everywhere.
It wasn’t hard to see what had happened to the bodies in Rough Trade, and I guessed I knew now who killed those movie stars.
There’s a whole lot I should have done. Getting off the tree trunk would have been a good start. Drawing my gun and firing a shot through the window was an option. But for the first time in my life I was frozen with shock and absolute terror.
I watched Ovsanna slice her way through the people pressing in on her. And then I realized that I couldn’t see the knives she was using…because there were none.
She was shredding people with her bare hands.
A hulking hairy bodybuilder stepped into her path: I saw her plunge her hand right into his chest and rip out his still-beating heart. I watched as a another hairy man leapt onto her back, saw her bend backward at an impossible angle and snap him right over her head, slamming him into the floor with enough force to shatter the floorboards. Then she grabbed his legs—for a moment I even thought she was holding a tail—and swung him around like a cudgel, using his broken body to batter the others.
What I was seeing couldn’t be real…it couldn’t be. Were they shooting a movie? Was that what this was—a location shoot for one of Ovsanna’s horror flicks? Just special effects and Eva Casale’s fake prop blood? Except…except there were no cameras…no lights…no makeup…no costumes…and definitely no director to call “cut.”
This was no movie.
Two women—one red haired, the other dark—leapt at Ovsanna from either side. Moving unbelievably fast, she caught both their heads and slammed them together with a crack I could hear through the window. Blood, brain, and bone geysered up across the ceiling.
A naked man who looked more simian than human wrapped unnaturally long arms around her. Ovsanna drove her booted heel into his bare toes, crushing them to a pulp, and as he opened his mouth to scream she reached in and wrenched out his tongue with her right hand. She kicked a second man so hard between the legs that I swear I saw his testicles stuck to the toe of her boot.
It was a massacre and I had to do something. I had to stop her before she killed any more people. She was obviously high on something, crystal meth or PCP. Gripping the trunk of the palm tree between my thighs, I drew my gun and tried to get a bead on her. She was pinned to the floor, but she was writhing and flailing and I couldn’t get a clear shot. There were more and more people crowding into the room, pressing in on her, trying—and failing—to prevent her from lashing out with whatever killer kung fu/jujitsu shit she was using.
I was just about to fire a warning shot into a wall when something else stepped into the room.
Something that had no right to exist outside a nightmare. Something tall and leathery, with wings and honest-to-god horns. And a fucking tail! I was hoping that it was someone in costume when a second creature crawled into the room. On the ceiling. Ovsanna had risen and was moving toward the door when the first
slashed at her. The blow staggered her, driving her to her knees, and suddenly the red-haired women and the hairy men were all over her, pinning her to the ground, covering her with their bodies. She managed to heave some of them off, but more and more of the leathery monsters crawled or slithered or flew into the room, and I realized then that what I’d seen standing in the shadows hadn’t been people in cloaks at all.